2015 Trends: Eat or Be Eaten

 Author: David Eden, Chief Innovation Officer at Tata Communications

Tata CommunicationsWe’ve all heard telcos being described as old school, even in some instances drawing parallels to dinosaurs heading for the day the meteor hits. Perhaps this is true in the traditional sense, but there are things all of us in the telco space can do to look forward to the future.

We see traditional voice being replaced by VoIP and mobile devices replacing fixed line services for the consumer, but there is still a need to connect all this together. Start-ups and OTT players continue to create solutions at the consumer and enterprise edge and rely on the internet and private networks (for business apps) to get this to their consumers, but the fact remains that it is the carriers and ISPs who deliver these new applications.

The future of the traditional telco then lies in the further exploitation of the massive investment made in the core data-carrying capability and this implies a change in operating model to more of a service delivery and support culture.

Those in the industry that recognize this and evolve will have a role to play. Those that continue to ride on the back of the old voice cash-cow dinosaur will die out.  Innovation is the key which is being demonstrated now in emerging markets where new ways to do existing things are being discovered all the time. Take the anti-bank, mobile payments culture – one example of which, M-Pesa launched in Kenya in 2007 and has since expanded to Afghanistan, South Africa, India and this year to Eastern Europe. M-Pesa (m for mobile, pesa meaning money in Swahili) allows users with a national ID card or passport to deposit, withdraw, and transfer money easily with a mobile device. The success of M-Pesa has been due to the creation of a highly popular, affordable payment service enabled by telco infrastructure and systems, with only limited involvement of a bank.

Finding new ways to extract value from the core competence of the carrier – i.e. carrying stuff — is the key to the future.  Making networks and capacity dynamic and user-configurable on-demand, turning data centers into virtualization hubs to allow new applications space to evolve and scale are just two examples. This keeping up with the faster change in requirements of the new breed of edge-services providers is key to remaining relevant. Changing the old perceptions of carriers as slow and un-informed is also important, such as updating the customer service experience to align with the expectation of the Gen Y tech-savvy user.

Overall we need a recognition that, as Steve Jobs observed: “if you don’t cannibalize yourself, someone else will”.

Read more on the Tata Communications New World Blog

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